Harvard research on Urban Planning was supported by the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The Kumbh Mela can be viewed as a case study, or prototype, for the pop-up mega-city, a sophisticated manifestation of “flexible urbanism,” the temporary structures that respond directly to a changing urban environment. This team from the Graduate School of Design engaged in photographing and documenting in detail some of the most important sectors of the Kumbh. They are in the process of producing maps and images that will help us understand just how this massive feat of constructing a city in the matter of a few months was completed. The systematic documentation of processes at the festival has revealed a rich and sophisticated urban typology, the various components of which can be useful in the future for other, more precarious contexts relating to disaster response, public health and sustainability.
The documentation of spaces at the Kumbh Mela is being carried out in a variety of two- and three-dimensional media, including plan and section drawing, diagrams, perspectival and aerial photography, and film. In this work, the team aims to highlight two complementary conditions: (1) the physical structure of the settlement, including the hierarchy of residential sectors, the attribution of spaces for public amenities, the location and organization of infrastructures, and the proximity of these spaces to the river; and (2) the temporal events that define the festival in a much more ephemeral way, including the routes that the pilgrims take between different parts of the city, the parade routes of the akharas for the major moments of bathing, and the nighttime celebrations.
Faculty Lead: Rahul Mehrotra, Chair, Urban Planning and Design, and Professor of Urban Design and Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design
Student researchers: Felipe Vera Benitez, Namita Dharia, Vineet Diwadkar, Oscar Malaspina, Alykhan Mohamed, and James Whitten
Blog entries from this team:
Harvard Gazette news article on this team: